The Blacklist [Documentary]

Russell SimmonsIf you need an example of a talking head doc, this is it. For an HBO film ((I did learn that it wasn’t produced by HBO, only acquired prior to Sundance)), I was kind of let down, but later it made sense.

The Blacklist is a series of interviews of some of the most�influential�African Americans – Toni Morrison, Chris Rock, Colin Powell, et al. Because these are such fascinating people, you can get away with just having them talk, though if you took the audio and put it on NPR you’d probably get about 95% of the movie.

Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, the director, is primarily a photographer, doing 8×10 portraits (that’s 8″x10″ negatives for huge, highly detailed prints). So knowing that, and realizing that he’s capturing a moving portrait, I let the talking heads slide a little. “Take what I do as a photographer…and make that work in film. It’s all about the person.” In editing, they had to cut down an hour interview into a five minute vignette that has an arc. I think they were successful.

To prevent the usual jump cutting you get when you shoot a talking head and don’t vary the shot, the filmmakers used a nice little audio trick to smooth things over. They would hold on the subject after they finished talking and start the audio for the next clip before cutting to it. Pretty cool.

This will probably be one of the easiest docs to see, as it will be on HBO Aug 25. There will also be a book.

[This post is part of a series about the documentaries I saw at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival]

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